September 06, 2011


So, this weekend, my friend (I want to say little friend, though he is actually my editor, he is a decade younger than me so I feel custodial, though we are peers) Leor joined me in the car and we drove for two hours to see PEARL JAM in the woods of Wisconsin for 12 hours! It was for work, but lord knows, I love a spectacle and Leor loves Mudhoney and was literally the only person I could find with any sort of enthusiasm at the prospect of going to an all day anniversary festival for old, old Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam who I never have paid much real attention to, other than I see pictures of Eddie Vedder and think he is not aging and is still rather handsome. Two night before I watched the Cameron Crowe-directed documentary about the band's 20 years, which I am not supposed to review for a few days, but lord alive, there is not a more earnest and tender person in rock n' roll than Eddie Vedder, in case you were doubt just how sensitacho he rolls. The part where his bandmates explain that a few records in he seized control of the band and essentially tried to turn the band into Fugazi and that it pretty much almost broke them up was pretty much my favorite part because THERE IS ALWAYS THAT GUY IN EVERY BAND. I was always that guy in all my bands.


Deep into Wisconsin! We arrived and there were tons of bros and white hats and people keeping the rain out with football team ponchos and slitted trashbags, grilling out of the back of pick ups, with serious tents and folding comfortable chairs and it was like four p.m. and there were already people so drunk they'd given up on wearing shoes.

Inside, we went to our seats in the Ampitheater. There were not a lot of people braving the rain for Mudhoney. I counted exactly 5 people who seemed to know the words. I ate a cheeseburger because I had to. Mark Arm, strangely, has not aged. I watched them doing the old hits and some new songs I didn't know (did they put out a record I didn't know about?) and the man was doing his Iggy wiggle and the new stuff all sounded like The Scientists and they closed with a Black Flag cover and I thought "Mark Arm must be doing a lot of yoga". Also, I realized watching them that I think I last saw Mudhoney on the day before my 16th birthday, on the Every Good Boy tour, and I was seeing them, still/again on the day before my 35th birthday. I don't know if that is weirder for me or to be them doing that though being almost 50 and being in Mudhoney is probably a blast.

Around us, on the impossible-graded slops of the ampitheater (it's at a ski resort) were PJ fans who totally only cared about PJ but soon might be drunk enough to give into something sort of pop-heavy as Queens of The Stone Age, because they were bored (and they did); there were hundreds of people sitting on wet grass in the rain wearing a trash bag that was squishing them so they looked like a blackened Spongebob and gulping down 13$ neon margarita-frosties from concessions that were served in foot tall guitar shaped cups, limp and slackened by booze, numb in Vedder-ticipation. The amount that dudes in our aisle were coming and going to the beer stands past our seat was like 4-5 times a set, for $14 tall boys. I do not think ever in my life I have been around so many people who were so actively wasted for such a duration and I have been to SXSW several times.

And then, like 3 hours into our adventure, The Strokes played. I would think for some reason they would a be a little urban(e) and effete for this Midwestern crowd, but people were into it, even before Vedder guested on Juicebox.

AND THEN THEN, Dennis Rodman walked into the crowd in between sets and people freaked out and it was strange. I saw no other celebrity, though I am sure maybe one more was there.

AND FINALLY, The Pearl Jam played. And played no hits, and played for almost three hours, and it was a real roller coaster. Mike McCready is truly one of the blandest guitar players I have ever heard. It a testament to the rest of the band and especially Eddie Vedder that they 1. have the patience, as seasoned music fans, to sit through his soloing, which is both tepid and colorless. 2. That they have hits inspite of his totally generic playing but then again I guess that is often how things get on the radio so maybe thats a lesser point. Also, it was smart of Mike McCready to not wear a spaghetti strap tank top like he did at PJ's 10th anniversary. It made him look like he was late for his 4 am set at Manhole. At least they seem to be through their decade long bad-hats phase.

I saw PJ last in 1992 on Lollapalooza and I barely remember it. They certainly weren't as triumphant as they are now. Majestic. Vedder is so earnest, so straight in his connection to the audience, he's Springsteenian in that regard, but there is not the rock n' roll showman part. He's understated, the anti-rock god rock god and that's why people love him. It's impossible not to watch him and eat it up. It feels good to do so. His banter is absolutely corny, like he is 15 and trying to explain why he loves playing music. He is letting that part of him do the talking. Which is awesome and also really funny. More people should do that.

AND THEN THEN THEN: Chris Cornell came out, and lord, he has such lovely posture, and they did some Temple of the Dog songs and thought I never liked that band, I reconsidered them for those 20 minutes and was impressed. Also, Vedder and Cornell are both freakinshly well-preserved, especially when presented together. Everyone else looks like the Cryptkeeper in comparison. I bet there is an internet underworld of Temple of The Dog slash fiction starring them. I don't even want to Google that.



Posted by jessica hopper at September 6, 2011 10:57 AM | TrackBack